What is a Hot Flash?

What is a Hot Flash?

What is a Hot Flash?

I have been cold for most of my life (and I’m talking physically, not metaphorically).

I am always the one with a sweater on, even in the dead of summer. I am the last one to turn on a fan when working out, and I once wore a scarf – in Mexico.

I am probably the only woman on earth that couldn’t wait for menopause and hot flashes to start.

Fast forward to today and here I am kinda wishing I wasn’t so vocal to the hormone gods that I wanted some hot flashes.

What Exactly is a Hot Flash

Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause. It’s a quick feeling of heat that is not caused by any external sources, leaving us sweating from our scalps all the way down to our toes.

They can range from mild and tolerable, to downright troublesome, and all the way to severe and debilitating.

Some women can have hot flashes for decades, while others for just a few years.

A few weeks ago I reached out to my community to ask them how a hot flash felt for them, and here are some of the responses I received:

“A heat that feels like it’s “radiating from your body” late at night or the early hours of the morning…often accompanied by a sweaty neck and restless sleep.”

“…my experience has been with night sweats which you wake up and find yourself very hot and sweaty, sometimes having to change because you have soaked your pj’s – not fun! I have experienced day ones too, which you don’t give you any warning. One minute you’re fine and then the next you are wanting to take your clothes off because you are so hot and uncomfortable. It can be very embarrassing depending where you are, thank goodness I don’t get those very often. I do find if I have had wine that night that I am more prone to having a night sweat.”

“Hot flashes are a very uncomfortable feeling as they come suddenly and leave suddenly. Nights are the hardest as I dress up, undress, dress up, undress, probably 20 times a night.”

“Before hormone replacement I was getting hot flashes that would make my head and face feel like a volcano had erupted on it.”

“…a hot flash feels like my blood is burning up from the inside of me and my face and neck area gets very red, my arms are really hot and a darker color. Thank god they don’t last too long. You can feel them coming on and then you feel normal again.”

Researchers believe that women with hot flashes have more sensitive thermostats in their brain, so they are only comfortable in a small range of temperatures (North American Menopause Society – NAMS).

Researchers also hypothesize that hot flashes may be because of a change in our circulation (WebMD).

Dr. Karen McGee, naturopathic physician in Fort Langley who specializes in women’s health, says that a drop in estrogen is one of the factors in a hot flash, however she says that it is a bit more complex than just low estrogen.

She explains that we are actually designed to fight off hot flashes, but lifestyle hinders that fight.

There is a layer of our adrenal glands that releases sex hormones, and these hormones can prevent hot flashes. But, throw in a busy lifestyle and chronic stress and our adrenal glands are left being busy dealing with day-to-day life stuff. They are unable to balance the thermoregulation needed to prevent a hot flash.

And so the hormone sh*t-storm begins.

funny-menopause-hot-flash-quote-fitness-with-PJ

Hot Flash Triggers

While you can’t escape hot flashes during menopause, there some triggers you can avoid to help with the intensity of them.

These are:

  • Stress (to keep your adrenal glands happy)
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy Foods
  • Tight clothing
  • Heat
  • Cigarette smoke

NAMS recommends if your hot flashes are mild or moderate you may find relief by simply changing your lifestyle.

But, if you have severe hot flashes, while you will still benefit from lifestyle changes, you may also choose to take a nonprescription therapy or a prescription medication, including hormones to help you manage your symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes

A big lifestyle change that can help produce a difference with hot flashes is to stay cool (both physically and metaphorically), and reduce your stress.

Other relief options can include:

  • Avoiding warm rooms (no more saunas or hot tubs), hot drinks and foods, alcohol, caffeine, excess stress, and cigarette smoking.
  • Wearing layers of clothing made from light, breathable fabrics. This way you can remove a layer or two when you’re hot and replace them when you’re cooler (this is a tactic I use).
  • Using cooling products, including sprays, gels, and a Chillow pillow.
  • Reducing stress and promoting a more restful sleep by exercising regularly.
  • Meditation, yoga, qigong, tai chi, biofeedback, acupuncture, or massage will also lower your stress levels.

When you feel a hot flash coming on:

  • Try “paced respiration” (NAMS). This is slow, deep, abdominal breathing where you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You want to breathe like that for only 5 to 7 times per minute. So it is much slower than usual, and continue breathing like that until you feel the flash subside.
  • You can also try different strategies to stay cool while sleeping, such as dressing in light, breathable nightclothes. Or, wear workout wear, like a Nike dri-fit top.
  • Use layered bedding that can be easily removed during the night.
  • Cool down with a bedside fan.
  • Keep a frozen cold pack under your pillow, and turn the pillow often so that your head is always resting on a cool surface.
  • If you wake at night, sip cool water and to get back to sleep try meditation, paced respiration, or getting out of bed and reading until you become sleepy.

Women who are overweight tend to have more hot flashes, so maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly will help in both decreasing the hot flashes while also improving your overall health.

Nonprescription Therapies

Many nonprescription therapies can help reduce hot flashes, but not because of how you would think.

Researchers claim that nonprescription therapies work because of the placebo effect.

When nonprescription treatments are studied scientifically (NAMS) it has been found that they are JUST as effective as the placebo.

But, even if relief is simply all in our heads it is still worth a shot to try, yes?

Yes, I think so too.

Some remedies you might want to consider for hot flash relief are:

  • Soy: eat one or two servings of foods daily (containing isoflavones). This can be tofu, tempeh, soymilk, or roasted soy nuts.
  • Supplements containing soy isoflavones.
  • Herb supplements: such as black cohosh, have also decreased hot flashes in some studies

Prescription Therapies

Dr. McGee sees success with her patients using bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (replacing your estrogen and progesterone).

Estrogen, in a pill or a transdermal patch, is highly effective at reducing, and in some cases, eliminating symptoms.

However, there are risks with hormone therapy (HT).

Long term studies of women receiving oral preparations of combined hormone therapy of both estrogen and progesterones were halted when it was discovered that the women in the study had an increased risk for heart attack, stroke and breast cancer when compared with women who did not receive HT.

Later studies of women taking estrogen alone showed that estrogen was associated with an increased risk for stroke, but not for heart attack or breast cancer.

So, the decision to start, or continue taking, HT is a hard one and a very individual choice. Talk to your health care provider to weigh the pros and cons.

Other prescription therapies include:

  • Low-dose depression drugs like fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), or venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Clonidine, a blood pressure medication
  • Gabapentin, an anti-seizure drug
  • Brisdelle, a paroxetine formula specifically for hot flashes
  • Duavee, a conjugated estrogens/bazedoxifene formula designed to treat hot flashes

You can also read what the North American Menopause Society recommends by clicking here.

 

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Mid-Life Crisis

Mid-Life Crisis

The only thing I can chalk up my latest goal/what-I-want-to-do is that I must be suffering from a mid-life crisis.

You see I am a month shy of 46 years, peri-menopausal and wondering if this aging thing is really for me.

Actually scratch that last sentence – I know this aging thing isn’t for me. I don’t like it and I don’t want to encourage it in any sort of way. I know I am going to age but…I am not going down without a fight.

How You View Your Mid-Life

Experts say the answer of how we will enter our mid-life will depend in part in how we have viewed our life so far and how we view it for the future.

 

There are those who will feel less conflicted about their age because when they reflect back at their past years it’s with affection and they are able to happily move forward to the next years.

While others will wonder, “Is this it?”, and instead of looking back on their years fondly they, instead, only focus on the diminishing years ahead.

They see the time-bomb ticking and think to themselves “Sh*t.”.

This is where the mid-life crisis begins. When these poor buggers believe that if they do something drastic and shake things up in their life that it will either A) distract them from the fact that time is ticking away, or B) by getting their butts in gear they won’t miss out on any goal or grand plan that life had for them.

A mid-life crisis is really the original FOMO.

And, I am one of those poor buggers suffering from both A and B.

Mid-life-crisis-funny-quote-fitness-with-pj

Mid-Life Crisis To-Do List

My mid-life crisis to-do list is a bit long (visit Europe, learn a new language, write a book), but there has been one goal that has been in the back of my mind for a while and two weeks ago I finally bucked up and owned it.

 

 I decided this was the year I was going to compete in a fitness competition, in particular the NPAA BC Classic (Natural Physique Athletic Association) happening this May 1st in Richmond.

 

 What will I be competing in? Bikini Masters (for women 35 years and older), and if I have the courage Bikini Novice as well (this is where I would be competing with women as young as 20 – not sure I want to be on the stage twice). Gulp.

I Got To Wear What?!?

First things first, I am not a bathing-suit-strutting kind of gal.

 

 While I am comfortable in front of a group of people, it’s usually because I am talking about fitness (my passion), I am fully dressed (my desire), and I am wearing Nikes (my comfort).

 

 For this competition I will need to wear a bikini (similar to the one below), with the mandatory 5″ high hooker-heels and pose in some of the most awkward-looking positions.

 

 This all makes me very uncomfortable and sick to my stomach when I think about it.

 

Bikini-competition 

 

Why Do A Competition?

So why do this, you wonder? Why do something that makes me nauseous every time I think about wearing an itsy-bitsy bikini in front of a large crowd of people?

 

 Why live on chicken breast, protein shakes, broccoli, air and water for 12 weeks? Why workout six days a week, sometimes twice a day?

 

 These are great questions and the best answer I can give you is that I do not want to sit in my rocking chair in my later years and have any regrets.

 

 Regrets that I was too scared, too intimidated, too unmotivated, too lazy and too uncommitted to try.

 

Next Steps

 

 This past week has been helping loving husband feel comfortable with this (cause he’s not too keen about his wife being half-naked in front of a bunch of people), as well as assuring him I will only be a bit of a bitch for the next 3 months.

 

 Let’s face it. I am going to be a little angrier and a bit more impatient than normal until May. While I will try my hardest not to be, truth-be-told I don’t diet well and I love food.

 

 Starting a week ago, and until competition day, I am on one of the strictest eating regimes that I have ever tried.

 

 I have said good bye to my favourite foods and beverages (so long spiced rum, I will miss – but I will never forget you), and eat more meat than I care to.

 

 However, it’s worth it.

 

 It’s worth proving that mid-life is the best time kick some ass. It’s worth showing other women you can do, and can be whatever you want to be – no matter what age you are.

 

 All you need to do is put the work in, have focus and determination, and keep your sense of humour along the way.

 

 Week 13 – Before Photo

Week 13 - Before  

Stay tuned… every 2-weeks I will be blogging about my journey to becoming a fitness bikini competitor. 

 

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Testing Positive for Menopause

Testing Positive for Menopause

Testing Positive for Menopause

I just recently came face-to-face with getting older and I didn’t like it one bit.

With every passing birthday I was aware that I was getting older; I just never felt or thought that I was. I mean, getting old was what happened to other people, like my husband and my sisters for example.

Of course there was that grey hair I found a while ago. But, that was easily sorted out with a good tug.

Then the wrinkles came, but hallelujah for high-definition makeup, retinol and really expensive eye creams.

I also ignored the aches that weren’t there in my body ten years ago, as well as the declining energy levels (I chalked this up to me learning how to relax, something that is recommended for us high-stung Type A’s).

But, something recently happened that I could no longer ignore, buy a cream to correct, or even drink my delusions away with.

I started menopause.

A Trainer’s Denial About Menopause 

At first I was in complete denial. How much denial, you’re wondering? Epic levels, let me tell you.

One evening I internalized this change in my body when I couldn’t sleep – because we don’t really sleep do we? Instead, middle-aged women “drift” through the night.

Anyways, I got myself so worked up about my lack of a menstrual cycle for the past three months that I convinced myself that this absolutely could NOT be menopause.

It had to be something else.

I was far too young for menopause. This only happened to other women. Older women.

The thought of this not being menopause, and instead being the alternative, was frightening to the bone and I could not keep this to myself any longer. I had to wake up loving husband and let him in on my epiphany.

Now, ladies, I have a tip for you. If you want to FREAK your significant other out, wake them up in the middle of the night and tell them that you think you are pregnant. Works better than a bucket of cold water to the face.

Poor loving husband was up all night having waking nightmares of being in his 60’s with a teenager.

funny-getting-older-quote-Fitness-with-PJ

Testing Positive

The next day I ended up in a local pharmacy, incognito, buying a home pregnancy test. When I got home sure enough I did test positive…for menopause.

Lucky for me, this past last year I have been designing fitness programs and plans specific for peri and menopausal women.

I have had the fortune of interviewing some of the industry’s best about how to handle menopause so I knew what I needed to do to help control my weight, my hot flashes, my sleeping problems, my brain fog and my turn-on-a-dime moods.

What none of these experts taught me, however, was how to handle this change emotionally. Because that was where menopause was really kicking me in the butt.

I did not want to age like my mother!

Could Menopause Be Just Like a Workout?

And then I got to thinking (again when I couldn’t sleep, because those are the best times to think, aren’t they?), menopause is just another cog in the wheel of this thing called my life.

I started relating to it in terms that I knew and could understand.

First, I thought of life as one big workout (cut me some slack, I’m a trainer), and came to the conclusion that menopause is just another rep in this one big workout of life.

And, just like any other rep that I do in the gym I have three choices:

  • I can perform it poorly and set myself up for injury
  • I can do the rep half-hearted and see little to no results
  • Or I can put all of my effort and focus on this one rep and grow

The only difference here was that I wasn’t growing physically; instead, I was focussing on growing emotionally and spiritually.

So, here I am putting all my energy into this one rep and finding out that I don’t mind the burn or the short-term pain of menopause. Because, in the end, I plan on coming out of this a better woman.

 

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Mastering Menopause

Mastering Menopause

Mastering Menopause

We cannot pretend menopause is not going to happen. We cannot wish it away, or hope that it won’t happen to us.

We also cannot think that it won’t affect us. It will, and it will affect those around us too.

So, instead of putting out the fires and the hot flashes as they happen, let’s start learning what changes to our lifestyle and mindset we need to make to give us the greatest impact.

Yes? YES!

What’s the difference, perimenopause and menopause?

Perimenopause happens 8 to 10 years before menopause, when the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but it can start in her 30s as well.

Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, which is the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs (ie. we stop having periods).

To be fully out of perimenopause and menopause (medically speaking), we need to be without a menstrual cycle for one full year.

How will I know when I am postmenopausal?

A woman is considered to be postmenopausal when she has not had her period for an entire year.

Measuring through a blood test called the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level is another way to determine if you are postmenopausal.

FSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain). However, the routine use of the FSH test is not needed to help the vast majority of women. Sometimes, the levels can be misleading since the levels go up and down during the transition into menopause.

What are the heck are the symptoms?

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats and/or cold flashes
  • Vaginal dryness; discomfort during sex
  • Urinary urgency (the need to pee more often)
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or staying asleep
  • Emotional changes (irritability, anger, mood swings, depression)
  • Dry skin, eyes or mouth
  • Brain fog

Women who are perimenopausal also have this barrel of fun to look forward to:

  • Racing heart rates
  • Headaches
  • Joint and muscle aches and pain
  • Changes to sex drive
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Acne

Can my lifestyle trigger the symptoms of peri and menopause?

A number of the symptoms of menopause can be set off and intensified by lifestyle choices. For instance, the following have been known to trigger hot flashes:

  • Stress
  • Caffeine (this sucks)
  • Alcohol (this really sucks)
  • Spicy foods
  • Hot foods
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Sugar
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Fatty cuts of meat

What else can go wrong, after 40?

On top of all of our menopause and perimenopause symptoms, we also have age-related changes happening to the body.

Why we are getting fat

The big reason why we gain weight after the age of 40 is because we are losing a percentage of our lean muscle mass, each and every year.

Muscle tissue burns more calories than any other tissue in the body, both at rest and at work. So, when our lean muscle mass decreases our metabolism takes a nosedive.

Click here to learn how to become a better fat-burning machine.

After the age of 30, women can expect to lose as much as 3% to 5% of their lean muscle mass per decade. Once we reach 75 years this loss accelerates (however for some women this can happen as early as 65 years).

How do you offset this? Not by walking and not by performing cardio. The only way to build your lean muscle mass is with a properly devised strength training program.

Click here to view all of my YouTube Workouts.

Our organs, as we age

As our cells age they don’t function as well as they used to and eventually old cells must die as a normal part of the bodies functioning.

While this is a normal process of age, it does become a concern when the number of old cells in the ovaries, liver, and kidneys decrease.

When these cells become too low, an organ cannot function normally and this is why most organs function less than stellar as people age.

Great news, though, not all organs lose a large number of cells. The brain is one good example. Science has proven that women who are healthy do not lose as many brain cells as unhealthy women do.

It's hard to be a woman funny quote

Our bones, as we age

Bone mass and bone density decrease as we age and will begin to decline by approximately 1% (or so) with each passing year from 30 years old until menopause is reached – at which point we will then see a 2-3% loss each year.

Click here to do a bone-building beginner’s strength workout.

Our connective tissue, as we age

Our tendons (that great stuff that keeps our muscles connected to our bone) are also being affected.

As we age we lose some of the water in our tendons and this, in turn, makes our tissue stiffer and less able to handle stress and more susceptible to injury.

Click here to do a 15-minute morning wake up stretch routine.

Our speed and reaction time, as we age

The number of our muscle fibers are also decrease as we age. This means that our muscles can’t contract as easily as they used to, making us slower in general as well as slowing down our reaction time.

Our heart, as we age

Our heart muscle also slows down as we age. It becomes less able to propel large quantities of blood quickly which means that we are going to tire more easily and take longer to recover as we get older.

Click here to do a heart-pumping, low impact cardio workout.

Our insides get fatter

Body fat increases as we age and the distribution of body fat shifts from subcutaneous (under the skin, evenly over the body) to visceral (around the internal organs).

Visceral fat is deep within the body surrounding our internal organs and is also known to increase our chances of developing: heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, sleep apnea, various forms of cancer and other degenerative diseases.

The best part of being over 40 is we did most of our stupid stuff before the internet. - Mastering Menopause blog

Estrogen, how we miss thee

Most of the symptoms related to perismenopause and menopause are happening because we are producing less estrogen.

This production will continue to decrease until the ovaries eventually stop making it.

WTF is going on with my belly fat?

When estrogen declines cortisol and insulin production increase.

And guess what? Both of these hormones contribute to fat gain, especially around the midsection, and in particular as that dangerous visceral fat we learned about just above.

In addition, perimenopausal women may see more accumulation of fat around the belly – even if they are eating better and exercising correctly.

You see our bodies are pretty amazing machines and during times of hormone imbalances our body favours belly fat because its programmed to preserve fertility as long as possible. Thanks body.

Belly fat also produces estrogen! So, it’s of no surprise that when estrogen production from the ovaries slows, the body compensates by adding a spare tire around our mid-section.

 Click here to be rid of the belly fat.

A good night’s sleep. What’s that?

Sleep patterns will also change as we age.

This can either cause difficulty falling asleep, constant waking or full on insomnia – all of which will lead to lower energy levels and fatigue.

Chronic sleep deprivation is also linked to elevated cortisol levels and cortisol is that visceral belly fat loving hormone, in addition it is responsible to increasing our risk for a whole host of diseases, including cancer.

Click here to sleep better.

How to master menopause

Mastering perimenopause and menopause starts with your lifestyle.

For some it might mean dietary changes, for others it might mean adding strength training to their weekly workouts.

While for other women it could be improving their sleep, or adding stress relieving activities to their day.

However, for a lot of women it will mean making more than one change to their lifestyle. This can pose a problem, though.

Adding too many goals, and too many lifestyle changes, all at once is a recipe for disaster.

My suggestion for success

Where ever you are with your symptoms, and whatever your reasons WHY are (because remember, you HAVE to want to want these lifestyle changes), I want you to start with only one change first.

The reasons are both physiological and psychological.

On a physiological standpoint our brains are actually only programmed to operate on 10% willpower, the other 90% runs on muscle memory, or habits.

We need to make these changes to our lifestyle become habits so that the 10% is not battling it out with the 90%.

Psychologically speaking, small changes and manageable goals help us from not freaking out and throwing our arms up in the air two weeks in.

BUT, this does not mean I do not want you to challenge yourself, or that these changes will be easy.
 

Start with one, the rest will follow

Start by picking one symptom that is bothering you the most and then begin making the necessary changes to your lifestyle to help you master that one symptom.

 

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Meditation for Beginners

Meditation for Beginners

Meditation, it’s the new kale. It’s something everyone is telling us to do for better health and piece of mind.

But, where do we start? How do we begin, when most of us already stretched for time throughout the day ? And, what if we have one of those busy monkey brains and feel we just can’t meditate?

On today’s Blab Eileen Cruz dispelled the many myths surrounding meditation (like you DON’T  have to be a monk to successfully meditate), while also providing a TON of amazing tips and techniques to fit meditation in your in-between moments through the day.

This was such a special Blab!

Eileen-Cruz -Meditation-For-Beginners-Fitness with PJ

Eileen Cruz

Eileen Cruz is a BodyMind Coach. BodyMind Coaching is a process-oriented approach for those who want to “disrupt the status quo” in their personal and professional lives.

Her mission is teach and coach her clients to discover and sustain a BodyMind connection within as the foundation for designing their lives. There’s a certain context and environment that encourages this BodyMind connection to happen. Eileen creates this context and environment for her clients. It is a quieter form of coaching, almost meditative.

Eileen’s unique approach integrates her experiences and exploration in coaching, leadership, business, yoga, meditation and acting training.  She received her coaching certification and leadership training through the Coaches Training Institute. Eileen has been meditating for over 10 years since her first 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat in 2004.

Her objectives for today’s BLAB is to inspire people to take baby steps to meditate daily by making it fun and accessible to everyone no matter how busy they are and to give them an experience of the BodyMind connection within.

Questions Asked On Today’s Blab – Meditation for Beginners

What draws us to meditation?

What is Eileen’s perspective on meditation?

Why Eileen doesn’t even like the word “meditation” or “meditation practice”?

Why should I bother meditating? What’s the point?

Why Eileen believes we are all master meditators already…we’ve just forgotten?

Why does expecting certain outcomes from meditation create a roadblock to meditating from the start? 

How do I prepare myself to commit to a meditation practice? 

What’s the mindset needed to meditate? 

How can I meditate when my life is too busy?

When should I meditate?

How long should I meditate for?

What’s the best posture for meditating?

What should I focus on when I meditate?

What will happen when I close my eyes to meditate?

Why is it so hard to meditate? What are the obstacles to meditating?

How do I choose from all the meditation techniques out there? 

How will meditating impact my life?

How do I know if my meditation practice is working for me?

What is the ultimate goal to meditating?

Why Eileen believes meditation is something we need to embrace as a way of life and not just a practice?

Meditation for Beginners

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